Peru’s Superfood: the organic banana and its leadership in social responsibility
A few years ago I worked at the Delegation of the European Union in Peru. I did research in the mark of the Euro Eco Trade Program which aims to promote the exports of ecological products from Peru to the European Union. My research focused on Corporate Social Responsibility in five food chains in Peru, namely: banana, mango, quinoa, amaranth and chestnut. I found out that from all of these sectors the organic banana sector was the most successful in terms of social responsibility. On top of that Peru has become one of the greatest exporters of organic banana in the world in about 10 to 15 years! Nowadays the organic banana sector of Peru counts for more than 7,000 hectares, about 6,500 producers and more than 30,000 families benefiting through direct and indirect employment, and has recorded an average growth of 23% per year over the last 8 years. I was so proud! How did Peru achieve this?
It all started with a government program in 1998-1999 to promote the cultivation of organic bananas in the northern coastal regions of Peru: Piura and Tumbes. It was elaborated and implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture through the regional government of Piura, with support of INIBAP (International Network for the Improvement of the Banana and Plantain) and with support of the exporting company Dole. Private companies were encouraged to export certified organic banana and invest in organic certification. Another important development was the introduction of the Fairtrade certification by the company Grupo Hualtaco (founded by the ONG Solidaridad and the Dutch importer Agrofair). This promoted the grouping of small banana farmers in associations, cooperatives and even banana centrals. In the long run, and with support of international organizations this led to more independence from exporting companies, and more income for the banana farmers.
The exports of organic and fairtrade bananas proved to be successful for several reasons. Firstly, Peru is not as competitive in the exports of conventional bananas as its Latin American neighbors. Secondly, demand for organic and fairtrade fresh produce has been growing, especially in the United States and Europe. Thirdly, Piura, and specifically Sullana -where 80% of the organic banana production is concentrated- has an excellent dry tropical climate for growth of the organic bananas. In Ecuador the bananas suffered from the Black Sigatoka fungus disease due to its humid climate. This makes organic cultivation difficult.
Unfortunately not everything is in favor of the organic banana sector of Peru as the country is vulnerable for the effects of climate change. Recently there were inundations across several regions of Peru caused by heavy rains. The organic banana sector has also been affected. So it is very important to keep focusing on sustainable practices and preventive measures to keep the organic banana sector a successful one.
Above this blog you can watch a short video/ rapportage of my visit to the banana plantations and my interviews with central actors in the banana sector, such as small farmers, companies and the local government. Above all I focussed on the role of the fairtrade and organic certifications in the success of the exports. More elaborate information can be found in my thesis CSR in the banana sector in Peru and on https://goingfairbananas.wordpress.com
Here below another (longer) video report:
And some pictures….